RICHMOND, Va. (BP)–Southern Baptists are challenged this month to give to the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering for North American Missions. Just as generous giving to the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering helps support more than 5,000 international missionaries and enables the International Mission Board to reach the uttermost ends of the earth, so the Annie Armstrong Offering, along with the foundational support of the Cooperative Program, enables us to extend our missions outreach throughout the United States and Canada.
A church seeks to fulfill numerous roles and responsibilities as the gathered people of God. In addition to the primary focus of worship, a local church engages in evangelism and witness, seeking to win the lost to faith in Jesus Christ and incorporate them into his body through baptism. Teaching, discipleship and a nurturing fellowship are all reflected through various local programs. Ministering to those in need, both within the membership and in the community, are valid expressions of who we are.
However, missions is different. Missions fulfills our Great Commission mandate to extend witness and ministry outside our own church fellowship and beyond where we live. It doesn’t necessarily benefit our congregation in any growth or gain other than the blessing that comes from obeying our Lord.
We often refer to the initial stage of a new church as a “mission.” The mission church is not intended to bring members into the sponsoring church and enable it to become larger. Investing resources and energy into starting a new church in another geographic area or across cultural lines is a selfless effort to extend the kingdom of God.
When missionaries are sent out or volunteer teams travel at personal expense to share the gospel in places throughout North America and around the world, they are faithful to our missions task. We pray for cities and people we will never see, and we give beyond our commitment to our local church because God has called us to be a missions people.
Under the leadership of Dr. Bob Reccord, the North American Mission Board is launching exciting and innovative efforts to evangelize the United States and Canada. Whether planting churches in pioneer regions, reaching the lost in massive urban areas through Strategic Focus Cities or blitzing the country through mass media presentations, Southern Baptists have an opportunity to give, to go and to reach beyond where they live to share Christ.
Some have drawn a circle around their church, community or state and see that as their mission. They have not caught a vision of the mission God has given us. They haven’t realized how he blesses the person and the church committed to a mission beyond themselves and those who give beyond what benefits them.
Acts 1:8 defines the scope of our mission task. It is not intended to be sequential except for the first-century New Testament church and apostles. We do not reach our Jerusalem, then Judea, then Samaria and finally the uttermost ends of the earth. Acts 1:8 indicates our task as the people of God, obedient to his mission, constantly and simultaneously.
Southern Baptists have given generously and sacrificially through the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering to support more than 5,000 missionaries reaching the uttermost ends of the earth. At this time of the year we have the privilege of reaching beyond our own Jerusalem and Judea to support more than 5,000 North American missionaries through the Annie Armstrong Easter Offering.
May we give, not on the basis of what the North American Mission Board can do for us or what can be returned to our state, but to lift up Jesus throughout the United States and Canada.
Rankin is president of the Southern Baptist International Mission Board.